12 Dec Blarney Castle, County Cork
A chieftain of the MacCarthys , called Cormac Laidir (‘strong Cormac’) , was a great builder , and the most striking of his works was Blarney Castle , which dates from the year 1446 and is worth a visit on your Ireland tours.
With a massive square keep and a battlemented parapet over 80 feet (25 metres) above the ground , it stands on a rock over the river Croomaun , 5 miles (8 Kilometres) to the North-West of Cork City.
The MacCarthys managed to keep control of castle through tumultuous times , until it was finally taken from them by the English Government.
The poet Aogan ORathaille (1670-1728) lamented the fact that the castle , bartered from one settler to another , had become “a dwelling place of wolves”.
The toponymic Blarney – in Irish Blarna – means “expansive place” , due to the fine view to be had there.
In recent times , however , it has aquired an additional and humorous meaning. This is connected to with the custom of “Kissing the Blarney Stone” in order to get the gift of eloquent speech. The flagstone in question is situated just below the battlements of the castle , and one must lie down and reach backwards to kiss it , but the origin of the custom is obscure.
It is said that the MacCarthy chieftan in the early 17th century tried to postpone his surrender to the English by using “fair words and soft speech” , thereby causing Queen Elizabeth I to declare that “this is all Blarney!”.
The MacCarthys did , indeed , have a great respect for good speech , having been patrons of the Gaelic poets for centuries. For some generations after their demise , groups of poets continued to meet periodically in the village beside the castle , thus bolstering the reputation of the pace for learning and eloquence.
So why not visit Blarney Castle and kiss the Blarney Stone on your tours of Ireland.